By Dotun Ibiwoye
Eighty two Africans start-ups have grown their ventures, just as 800,000 other Africans have been upskilled by 4Afrika, a Microsoft initiative, since the past five years.
The 4Africa initiative has further launched 15 TV white spaces connectivity pilots, brought over 500,000 Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, online.
The programme’s focal point is to accelerate Africa’s economic development and improve its global competitiveness.
Launched in February 2013, with intent to move Africa’s digital transformation forward, 4Afrika has empowered people across the continent, while giving them the tools to turn great Speaking at a media chat with some of the Nigerian beneficiaries of the 4Africa initiative, at Microsoft office, Victoria Island , Lagos, Microsoft 4Afrika’s Innovation Lead, Djiba Diallo, stated that start-ups are very dear to Microsoft’s heart.
The beneficiaries are: MAX, a technology company that connects businesses and consumers to safe motorcycle taxis on-demand – in an area notorious of difficult transport and traffic congestion.
Riby and Flutterwave, both startups promoting financial inclusion and participation through their digital payment services.
Diallo affirmed that they are engaged to understand the challenges that the start-ups encounter and support them to bridge some of these gaps.
Microsoft’s 4Afrika programme provides grants, upskilling workers, educating people, mentoring and training start-ups and NGOs, and working with African businesses on the ground to support them.
According to Diallo, through deliberate skills transfer and access to cloud services, startups can innovate and compete on a global scale.
She affirmed that a thriving start-up culture can have a tangible, immediate economic impact also, particularly those in the technology, mobile, and digital transformation fields.
Diallo also said that it is estimated that just a 25% increase in country-level ICT investment can grow GDP by 1%.And by 2020, researchers believe the mobile industry in sub-Saharan Africa will generate around 8% of GDP and support 2.7 million jobs.
“We have seen first-hand the transformative power of technical skills transfer, mentorship, funding, innovation, and access. For the past five years, Microsoft’s 4Afrika programme has invested time and money into the digital transformation of Africa –providing grants, upskilling workers, educating people, mentoring and training start-ups and NGOs, and working with African businesses on the ground to support them in their endeavours, she said
“Our close relationships with start-ups has influenced how we have engaged with them – they have learnt from us, and we have learnt from them, fine tuning the guidance and support that we have offered and continue to offer over time. We understand startups; and their successes have underlined our belief in the need to focus energies here. This is a beneficial relationship for all, and one that also unlocks several significant benefits on a micro and macro level.
“Startups provide employment and purpose for an individual or small group, and this often ripples into broader employment as the start-up grows. The ability for a start-up to scale up is critical as it plays a pivotal role in providing employment opportunities and subsequently enhancing economic growth.
She added : “The employment potential created through this is enormous. In the United States in 2015, for example, startup firms created 2.5 million new jobs. In Africa’s emerging markets, the 2017 Venture Finance in Africa report found that the average number of jobs per new company was seven.
“ Multiplied by thousands of startups, across the continent, this is a significant source of meaningful income and employment. In fact, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for 80% of Africa’s employment.